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#256: Wasn't That Included?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, March 8, 2010
Updated: Monday, March 8, 2010
How do I handle a client who has contracted with me for specific services and then asks for more saying, "I thought that was included?"

This underlines the importance of a key item found in our Code of Ethics — "I will mutually establish with my clients realistic expectations of the benefits and results of my services". The "setting of realistic expectations" for the prospect/client is a critical step to be performed at the outset of the engagement. Simply put, it is your responsibility as a consultant to ensure that your client/prospect fully understands what they are and aren't getting and specifically how additional work or services outside of the original project scope will be handled. One approach used by some is to build in some "as needed" additional services that could potentially be requested during the project and include them in your quotation/contract. These items might also lessen prospect anxiety in entering into an engagement (i.e., if this were to happen, you do not need to panic. If needed, this service will be provided without additional charge.)

Tip: Clarity is always critical in maintaining trust and goodwill between consultant and client. Since you can't always anticipate everything that is likely to come up over the life of a project, you might be well advised to work under the assumption that issues will undoubtedly arise periodically. Why not build in the opportunities (at pre-defined points in the project) for the client to be able to request unscheduled changes be made? Perhaps you can consider the offering of this flexibility as a value added component of your service and build the costs into your pricing.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  consultant role  ethics 

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Comments on this post...

Ruth V. Armstrong says...
Posted Tuesday, March 9, 2010
I think the real issue is what to do when a client is deliberately being dishonest -- when the disputed services were clearly described in the proposal, and the scope of the project was discussed at the outset and subsequently. What is an ethical consultant supposed to do when a client simply doesn't want to be "on the hook" for what is owed, or simply has no cash?

I have located some D&B letters that can be sent to non-paying clients. But I've also had dealings with clients who are willing to pay lawyers for advice on how to get out of their debts, when they could have just paid us instead. As a micro-firm, I can't afford to get all "lawyered up" to deal with these kinds of people. Even filing liens is time-consuming and expensive in comparison to simply replacing the business. Is that my only option?

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Pamela Campagna MBA CMC CMS says...
Posted Tuesday, March 9, 2010
These are good points, Ruth. Over the years, I've had this unfortunate experience as well - and only once. It may not help you after the fact, but my one negative experience really forced me to more closely scrutinize with whom I will do business....and to define "My Ideal Client".
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